'We are better than that': Minister expressed disappointment in award-winning essay

Author
Aaron Dahmen,
Publish Date
Wed, 7 Jul 2021, 12:17PM
Minister Peeni Henare. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Minister Peeni Henare. (Photo / NZ Herald)

'We are better than that': Minister expressed disappointment in award-winning essay

Author
Aaron Dahmen,
Publish Date
Wed, 7 Jul 2021, 12:17PM

The Defence Minister had words with the NZDF's chief about the award-winning essay of an army writing competition, which is no longer available online.

Newstalk ZB has obtained a copy of the article that took home first prize in the 'private soldier's' writing category, was published online, and then disappeared.

The essay centres on free speech and anti-diversity.

It says the Army should not try reconciling workforce diversity with a warrior ethos, and asks the question - can it afford to go woke?

"[The Army] should redirect as little energy as possible toward creating a more 'inclusive' culture in the way that this kind of language is understood in the politically charged parlance of the present day", the author wrote.

"On the contrary, I will argue that, if anything, the army should instead endeavour to become more exclusive."

They claim "every man-hour that is spent on ‘cultural awareness training’ or similar programmes, is a man-hour that is not spent training for combat or monitoring our enemies."

In a statement, Army Chief Major General John Boswell accepts the decision to award the piece first place was an error.

He says out of the two entries, the essay won because it was well-written, but the views are not compatible with the Army's values.

After questioning from Newstalk ZB, Defence Minister Peeni Henare revealed he delivered a blunt message to Defence Force chief Air Marshal Kevin Short yesterday.

He told Short his expectations are that "we're better than that, and have values that don't align with the essay."

"Ultimately, the decision to either put it up or take it down sits with the Army."

Henare says he first heard about the essay on Tuesday, once it was posted online.

By Wednesday afternoon, Henare hadn't read it, but says he's satisfied with the outcome.

"Of course, it isn't measured on how we react to this particular incident. It's what we do to make sure in the future, this doesn't happen again."

Henare was "unsure" if he spoke with Short before or after the essay was taken down.

National says it's "really strange" the essay has been scrubbed from the internet.

Defence spokesperson Chris Penk says it's concerning if it's been removed because it doesn't fit a pre-determined narrative.

“If you run an essay competition and pick a winner based on merit, then there should be no good reason that essay mysteriously disappears.

ACT leader David Seymour says "the New Zealand Army used to fight for free speech, now it's fighting against it."

Although he doesn't think the essay will win a Pulitzer prize, he says the Army needs a culture of healthy debate.